Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Nuclear safety inaction panned

RISKS:The former head of an anti-nuclear group said problems could occur at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant given a lack of experienced engineers working there

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin, left, holds a press conference yesterday at the legislature with members of environmental groups, calling on the government to evaluate the potential damage of a nuclear disaster in Taiwan.

Photo: CNA

Four months after a powerful earthquake and tsunami sparked a crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan, environmental protection activists yesterday said the Taiwanese government remained flippant about nuclear safety.

During a press conference at the legislature, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said that if an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred in Taiwan, the operating power plants might be unable to withstand the impact and catastrophe might ensue at tremendous cost to society.

There are 108 schools located within a 20km radius of the Jinshan, Guosheng and Fourth Nuclear Power Plants in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Shihmen (石門), Wanli (萬里) and Gongliao (貢寮) districts respectively, Tien said.

“If something goes wrong at any one of the three plants, many schools will face total evacuation,” she said.

The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, also known as the Longmen plant, is still under construction.

Estimates by the Ministry of Education show that reconstruction of schools affected by a natural catastrophe in the area could cost up to NT$362 billion (US$12.56 billion), Tien said.

However, areas that became contaminated by radiation might have to be abandoned for decades before reconstruction could proceed, she said.

Moreover, Tien said that according to the Council of Agriculture, agricultural losses within a 30km radius of the Jinshan and Guo-sheng plants were estimated at about NT$10.7 billion per year.

However, efforts to amend the Nuclear Liability Act (核子損害賠償法) to lift the cap on state compensation, which is currently set at NT$4.2 billion, were unsuccessful in the legislature.

The Homemakers’ Union and Foundation chairwoman Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said a growing number of people had access to technical information and the government should stop saying that the nuclear plants are safe without providing supporting evidence.

Chen called on the government to take policy flaws and problems seriously, adding that the public also had a responsibility to learn more about the possible dangers of nuclear power.

Former Yenliao Anti-Nuclear Self-Help Association president Wu Wen-tung (吳文通) said that as most of the initial construction engineers at the Longmen plant had retired, there would not be enough experienced engineers to deal with the problem if an incident occurred.

Green Citizens’ Action Alliance secretary-general Tsuei Su-hsin (崔愫欣) urged the government to allow inspections of the power plants by foreign experts invited by civic groups.

Tsuei also called for the safety evacuation zone to be expanded to at least 20km from the power plants.

Only 19 of the 54 nuclear power plants in Japan are currently operational and about 70 percent of Japanese are against nuclear power, Association for Nuclear-Free Homeland director-general Lin Hsien-shan (林獻山) said, adding that it was difficult to comprehend why, while Japan and Germany, both highly developed countries with advanced technology, were putting a halt to their nuclear activities, Taiwan remained so confident about the safety of its plants.

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